Publishing Pseudoscience

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Publishing Pseudoscience

Good gawd, I think hell just froze over. By way of a comments board at Pam's House Blend-- it appears that Cambridge University Press is publishing a Paul Cameron study, "Children of Homosexuals And Transsexuals More Apt To Be Homosexual," in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

For those of you who are blessed with ignorance and aren't familiar with the work of Paul Cameron, he's a widely discredited right-wing researcher who has been repeatedly caught of not following standard scientific methodology. Short of making stuff up, Cameron likes to quote *old* studies-- he really likes to quote his own debunked studies-- to make broad, sweeping proclamations about the innate sickness and depravity of homosexuality and homosexuals. Cameron was expelled from the American Psychological Association in 1983 for shoddy methods and his research has been repeatedly repudiated by sociologists for not following basic scientific methods of inquiry, namely highly dubious sampling techniques. In a nutshell, he's an anti-gay right-wing propagandist whose only audience is people who already believe gays and lesbians are sick, deviant and dangerous but want it stated in "scientific" terms. Cameron is frequently quoted by Family Research Council and others to "prove" that gay people are child molesters, die young, etc.

So why does Cameron's work matter? Because Cameron believes that whenever Bush (or any other anti-gay politician) says things like "studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman," that he is referring to research published by Cameron's "think" tank, the Family Research Institute. Why does Cameron believe this? For starters, he claims he has talked to staff at the White House about his research. Secondly, because Bush is certainly not referring to anything that any major medical group has published-- the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have made very clear statements about same-sex parenting that directly counter Bush and Cameron's assertions. (Bush denies reading Cameron's work, however, as we all know Bush isn't much for reading.) So getting published by a Cambridge University Press journal gives a false impression that his work has any credibility among professional researchers. Which means it could help him get invited as an "expert" to testify in legislative hearings on the "dangers" of same-sex parents-- something he manages to do already.

The illustrious Box Turtle Bulletin has an extraordinary deconstruction and rebuttal of Cameron's latest study. Here is a taste:
It's a terrible pity that the editors and reviewers of the Journal of Biosocial Science (JBS), who presumably posses far better credentials than I, have not been able to recognize blatant propaganda when they see it. This is all the more surprising given the clue that is not so well hidden in the very first sentences of the article:
Common sense holds that homosexuality is "contagious" (Levitt & Klassen, 1974). Thus Rees & Ushill [sic. ed.] (1956) state "it is vain to blind oneself to the fact that the problem of male homosexuality is in essence the problem of the corruption of youth by itself and by its elders. It is the problem of the creation by means of such corruption of new addicts ready to corrupt a still further generation of young men and boys in the future." (p.29).
This is ridiculous even for Cameron-- quoting assertions from a 1956 study? A peer-reviewed journal published this hackery? A simple google search would have revealed Cameron's questionable, widely rejected and debunked methods.

While the full article isn't available on-line, the abstract speaks volumes.
Do the sexual inclinations of parents influence those of their children? Of 77 adult children of homosexual parents who volunteered for three different investigations, at least 23 (30%) were currently homosexual: twelve (55%) of 22 daughters and three (21%) of fourteen sons of lesbians; five (29%) of seventeen daughters and three (17%) of eighteen sons of gays; none of six sons with both a gay and a lesbian parent. At least 25 (32%) were currently heterosexual. Of the ten with transsexual parents, one of nine daughters was currently lesbian, one was currently heterosexual, and one was transsexual. The sons' sexual preference was not reported. These findings suggest that parents' sexual inclinations influence their childrens'.
Typical Cameron-- a tiny, hand-picked sample and HUGE assertions, all done with the intent of "proving" his unshakable hypothesis that gays and lesbians are sick, dangerous influences on children and society in general.

Update: As if to underscore the flimsiness of Cameron's reseach, Author Abigail Garner has a blog post and a copy of the email she sent to the Journal of Biosocial Science regarding Cameron's study. One would think the JBS would listen to her considering that Cameron cites her non-scientific book of interviews with the grown children of GLBT people-- Families Like Mine : Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is -- and uses it as one of the three "investigations" for his study! Of the 77 people in his study 50 of them are people that Garner-- not Cameron-- interviewed.

But this is what Cameron does and has been doing for 20+ years. Cameron's "scientific methodology" is nothing more than him reading a few, select non-scientific sources, combining them with citations from a few very outdated studies, then unscientifically converting them into his own samples and presenting it all as "scientific research."

Paul Cameron's work is the very definition of pseudoscience. Cambridge University Press should be deeply embarassed for being conned into publishing the work of the walking, talking fraud known as Paul Cameron. You'd think it would give them pause that Cameron openly expresses his distain of GLBT people and their allies by doing such things as referring to them as "death activists" who are "destroy[ing] the US from within."

Update, Part Deux: If you feel like doing something, may I suggest writing to Cambridge University Press or sending Paul Cameron some information on the Scientific Method?

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